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Wednesday, 29 September
The Others

Today he stood by a recycling bin, feeling at the lid of the container and rattling it slightly, as if divining its contents. His white cane rested against the store wall, and he looked up into the air as always. When he heard my footsteps, he wheeled on me and I hate this guy.

Let me back up. There is a fellow, known to probably any long-term resident of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, who is (1) blind, and (2) perhaps homeless, but this is indeterminable, and (3) in the ultraviolet spectrum of "fucked up."

He can frequently be seen on Broadway, calling out to passersby, "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!" As he is obviously blind, this traps many people, who then sometimes quite helpfully--if they are new fish--accede to his outlandish requests, such as escorting him into stores to aid his shopping, which he will then ask for his victims to pay for. (When unaccompanied in stores, he simply enters and immediately begins shouting demands: "I need some tomato soup and some bread, please!") I have seen him get people to lead him into bars, where I can only assume he then presses them to buy him drinks.

When people walk right by him without acknowledging his cries for help, he delights in lobbing harangues after them: "Hey, that's great! Just ignore the blind man!"

I know this isn't painting me in the best light, but frankly I don't care any more. I'd feel worse in the grand liberal tradition if I thought the guy was radically unhinged, but really, I think he's just a titanic ass who exploits his disability at every single turn. Maybe he is homeless. Maybe he is a victim. Maybe he has mental problems (and here I see him aimlessly rattling at recycling bins again). But my impression is, he's just a big turd who won't leave my neighborhood.

I do know that I have no reason to disbelieve an old coworker of mine named M. (sorry, initial-haters, that's just the way it is), who had her own special encounter with the fellow. M. related the scene to me thusly:

M: I know that creepy blind fucker. He stopped me on the street once.

S: Why did you stop?

M: I didn't know who he was then. I felt bad because he was blind.

S: What did he want?

M: He wanted to give me fifty bucks to go back to his apartment.

S: You're joking.

M: You don't even know. His idea was that he would strip naked and then I was supposed to break albums on him.

S: (Pause) What?

M: He wanted me to break vinyl LPs on him while he jerked off.

Never has there been such a time where I really didn't know what to say. I staved off the urge to ask which LPs he had in mind. "First, Boston's second album! Then some Kurtis Blow, and we'll finish up with a nice Anita Baker!"

I hate him.

-----

A DIFFERENT TIME, A DIFFERENT PERSON

Walking home from work, I passed a bus stop. Sitting on the bench was a woman, obviously all kinds of fucked up; she was a cadaverous thing, and sat grayishly, waiting apparently for some pit demon to eat her horrible life. I was smoking, which she noticed. She warbled thinly at me:

"Got a smoke?" This in the kind of hopeless intonation you might recognize from beggars who are used to being totally ignored. I, myself, have never turned down a request for a smoke in my life, unless I really was out. I stopped and regarded her, digging for a smoke. "Sure," I said. I handed it to her, and she accepted it.

And grabbed my hand. "You're really pretty," she said forlornly. "You remind me of my boyfriend."

I wish I could say I handled this well. I did not. I pulled my hand away from hers and blushed, and stammered some nonsense and a thank-you. I tried to imagine who this poor woman's boyfriend was, and I was ashamed to imagine nothing good. I felt supremely, unutterably horrible--which was probably nothing compared to how she felt on an ongoing basis.

I don't know why this stays with me. I just got done ranting about the blind asshole whom I cannot stand; where did I jump over to this track?

Hey, that's great! Just ignore the blind man!

You remind me of my boyfriend.

It's just not funny.

Confess | Skot | 29 Sep, 2004 |

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Comments

I know what you mean. I live in Minnesota, and we have a pretty bad problem with homelessness here. The worst part is that I do hiring for a business that I work for and I see people come and go that I know are homeless and trying to get back on their feet. The worst is when it is winter and the people that come in are honestly trying their best, but they aren't recieving enough support. Or when they are under 18 without a high school education, or elderly without an education. But, I have met people that I don't have much pity for, people that ask for change first and a trick next, or swear at me for not giving them more money. But winter in Minnesota means that the ruling emotion I have for any homeless person is concern.

Comment number: 004254   Posted by: Greg on September 29, 2004 06:47 AM from IP: 63.224.4.209

Toronto has a pretty bad homeless problem as well. Unfortunately, we have a HORRIBLE fake-homeless-person problem. Kids (or adults, now) will drive in from their suburban homes, then sit on the street asking for change. I know which ones aren't really homeless, because they disappear in the winter, but then they're right back there as soon as it is warm enough out. I will never give change to a homeless person in the summer unless I've seen them in the winter first, because I can't STAND the idea of giving cash to one of these fucking fakers preying on the generosity of strangers.

Comment number: 004255   Posted by: Ryan Waddell on September 29, 2004 08:30 AM from IP: 206.47.252.98

I was born and raised and still live in the San Francisco Bay area. On a nearby busy street, I cannot walk one block without being asked for change by more than one person. There's one guy who's been posting up for over a year in front of the place I get coffee every morning. There's one in front of every convenience store. I think the year-round mild weather here gives it the dubious distinction of having one of the worst homeless situations in the U.S. I think we're on par with Washington D.C.

Hmmmmmm.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is, I'm no stranger to homeless folks and I'm also no stranger to becoming fed up with same. When i read your post, I made not a single negative judgement on you for the way you felt because I can relate. Though it is incredibly sad and unfortunate and I would never want to walk a mile in their shoes, there comes a point where the pity stops and giving out money means you're being taken advantage of.

You're right, this isn't funny.

Comment number: 004256   Posted by: Jason on September 29, 2004 11:34 AM from IP: 216.239.124.38

Gaaaah!!! Oh the homeless of Capitol Hill!! There is this old woman who hangs out in front of the post office on Broadway or sometimes Dicks who ask for usually 5 bucks.. I fell for her lil old destitute woman scam once.. and gave her a fiver.. then caught her in the booze store. The next time I ran into her, I said can't help you and started screaming at me about how I was a selfish cunt. There is also nothing like being accosted by drunks while waiting for the bus. Yay capitol hill. I miss it so.

Comment number: 004257   Posted by: Dezzarray on September 29, 2004 12:52 PM from IP: 24.156.104.142

i pray that seattle will never feel mount st helen's fiery wrath. scot will have nothing to talk about.... what a horrible thought

Comment number: 004258   Posted by: teena on September 30, 2004 05:20 AM from IP: 63.76.75.38

I totally understand - don't feel bad. Sometimes there are just people like that that you're made to feel guilty for not looking after all the time and when you do they just grump at you. I help when I can but I can't stand it when people feel they just deserve special attention 24/7 from strangers.

Gah, I'm in a bad mood, I sound bitchier than I mean.

Comment number: 004259   Posted by: Kat on September 30, 2004 06:03 AM from IP: 203.79.117.128

sure the winters are hard, we can all see that suffering; but the rage, the bad planning, the mental degredation are all part of the suffering too. giving $5 might not go to get them the meal their body needs, but showing kindness is always helpful. if they think they are getting away with something, thats just part of that suffering. its not unlike a child's problems that we have to help in parenting them.

ya, its not funny, but don't ever grow hard to obvious suffering or those we might not even know about.

Comment number: 004260   Posted by: powers on September 30, 2004 06:12 AM from IP: 216.216.73.2

If this guy stands around with his head thrown back and his mouth wide open (like the statue in the fifth element) and asks for winston 100's and lavoris mouthwash..."L-A-V-O-R-I-S...RED color"...then I know this blind creepy guy...he used to be in Austin...he blinded himself and removed his wedding tackle in the late 70's and proceeded to impose himself on us for years.
If not...creepy coincidence indeed.

Comment number: 004261   Posted by: rob on September 30, 2004 04:02 PM from IP: 24.206.117.223

mmmmm..the homeless and unbathed. Well, in Nashville, I work just around the block from the Rescue Mission. We just gather all the lost and confused in one place so they can hang out all day. But, even better there is an outside faucet on my company's building. Every day after 5:00pm and before 8:00am we get the treat of open air bathing by various homeless people and illegal migrants at this faucet. Don't park your car near this spot or it will become the prop and closet area for whatever they are taking off. The owners said that they have locked the faucet and removed the spigot, but the water pipes were vandalized so this is just the easier and cheaper compromise. I haven't seen any muddy ass smudges on their fine import vehicles. No one has asked me for any money yet, so maybe they are happy with the free water.

Comment number: 004262   Posted by: Crystal on September 30, 2004 10:04 PM from IP: 69.243.203.183

You're right, it's not funny. But as a twenty-one year resident of New York City, I can empathize. Nowadays we have tons of clean, shaven, well-dressed kids who just hopped a bus to the city without enough money for a hotel room. I have to wonder what they're running from sometimes...I guess it makes me a horrible person, but my first thought it usually, "Let me guess, parents imposed rules or tried to force you to take a reality check on your rock star dreams?"
I will, however, give twenty bucks to a scaryass loon if it means they'll go aware and bother someone else. I know I shouldn't encourage them...and yet, my willpower crumbles when there seems to be no escape.

Comment number: 004263   Posted by: CG on September 30, 2004 11:12 PM from IP: 68.160.206.107

the hill has been driving me bonkers lately too.

Comment number: 004264   Posted by: mike on October 1, 2004 01:35 AM from IP: 216.173.212.234

My nemesis was the guy who panhandled next to the cast-iron fence outside that church on the corner across from the Starbucks on the north end of Broadway. Once I had to threaten him so that he would leave these two girls alone for not giving him a quarter, or whatever. Then the next day *I* felt guilty and gave *him* money. And I'm not even Catholic!

Also, the guy in the green jacket with the bushy beard who lives under I-5 and walks up Belmont every day. He used to give me these really withering looks as I passed by him on my way home. It is interesting that we kept the same schedule, though.

Comment number: 004265   Posted by: Adam on October 1, 2004 10:42 AM from IP: 24.22.169.137

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